Recently, my school held its annual picture day. Traditionally, each class begins its turn by lining up in the auditorium to take individual snapshots and then heads outside to the risers to take the group photo. Usually, I line up first for the individual pictures so I can be available to lead the transition outside to the risers and minimize any behavior that arises due to the fact that the early finishers need to wait a while for the rest of their classmates. I forgot to do that this year, and I ended up sixth or seventh in line. After I took my individual photo, I noticed that the kids who preceded me were not in the auditorium, and I was a bit worried that they had made their way outside unsupervised and were fooling around.
When I walked outside, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. Six kids were already in line in order from tallest to shortest, ready for the group photo. Two of them had decided to take charge, one boy and one girl. Each time a new student exited the auditorium, these volunteers helped that person find his/her place in line.
It turns out that I wasn't the first adult who noticed this. A parent whose child was in my class last year and who was assisting on picture day approached the two and asked what they were doing. The girl replied that a part of our class mission statement talks about leadership, and they decided to show leadership when their teacher wasn't there.
We had written our mission statement during the first full week of school and had reviewed it every Friday as part of our morning routine. To see these kids internalize and act on the ideas we had included in the mission statement independently was incredible. When we returned to class after taking our class picture, I shared this story with the whole group so that the students who were not there to witness it could understand how powerful it is when we take an abstract idea from our mission statement and apply it without being asked or prompted.